Cops probe Yengeni

2010-11-07 11:09

The Commercial Crimes Unit has launched an investigation into ANC bigwig Tony Yengeni’s illegal company directorships.

A police spokesperson confirmed on Friday that the matter was referred to the unit this week.

“They will do an initial inquiry until they find enough statements and proof that there is a criminal case, and then open a criminal case. They will then liaise with a senior state prosecutor,” said ­Captain Ezra October.

If he is charged, tried and convicted, Yengeni could face a stiff fine or up to two years in prison, or both.

This follows a City Press exposé revealing that the high-flying former ANC chief whip had illegally acquired or maintained six ­directorships after his 2003 conviction and sentence for defrauding Parliament.

Yengeni’s lawyer released a statement on Thursday saying that Yengeni had resigned from all six directorships. This has not been independently confirmed.

The Companies Act clearly prohibits anyone convicted of fraud and sentenced to a term of imprisonment without the option of a fine from being appointed as a company director.

Yengeni’s co-directors could ­also be charged if they were aware that his appointment was illegal in terms of the act.

One of them, Dr Mlungisi Kwini, chairperson of Kwini Mining Investments and non-executive director of Optimum Coal Holdings, which is the sixth-largest coal producer in South Africa, admitted in an interview that he was aware of Yengeni’s 2003 conviction.

“I know that he was in trouble over the arms procurement... I know he went to prison. I think at the time (he became a director)... there were issues he ought to have resolved and was in the process of resolving with the law. How successful he has been in dealing with those things, I am not sure.”

Another co-director, Johan Potgieter, denied any knowledge of Yengeni’s conviction.

When asked if he knew that co-directors could be prosecuted if they had been aware of it, he said: “Jeerlikheid! Ja nee, that is important stuff you are telling me because my name appears (on the register of directors) with his.”

He claimed to have little knowledge of Yengeni’s role, saying that he believed he had been appointed as “a BEE partner”.

Yengeni slipped through the cracks because his name does not appear on a register of disqualified directors held by the Companies and Intellectual Property Registration Office (Cipro).

Cipro said this week it would not investigate the matter and that it relied on the courts for copies of convictions and orders to enable it to list “delinquent directors”.

Cipro spokesperson Dr Elsabe Conradie said: “Cipro will be able to place a person on the Disqualified Directors Register only if there is a valid order of court, such as a conviction, issued to Cipro for implementation as per the Companies Act.”

On Monday Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow minister for trade and industry Tim Harris lodged a criminal complaint at Cape Town central police station.

The ANC released a statement saying that Yengeni’s decision to resign “shows good leadership”.

The statement came after party spokesperson Jackson Mthembu had ignored repeated emails for comment.

Contacted on Friday, Mthembu refused to answer additional questions, saying: “That is our response; thank you very much.”

Legal experts said this week that Yengeni’s resignation “does not change the fact that he breached the Companies Act” and that it was “clearly an attempt to create mitigating circumstances”.

Tlali Tlali, a spokesperson for the justice department, yesterday conceded that while court registrars had a statutory duty to provide copies of court orders and convictions to Cipro, “resource constraints” were challenging.

“We need to find alternative and creative ways of attending to these, using existing resources.”

He said the department had held meetings with Cipro “where it emerged there are certain gaps we must close up”.

A new system of channelling ­orders and convictions to Cipro “must be in place early in the new calendar year”, he said.

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